Indian opposition alliance splits ahead of polls

AP News
Posted: Jun 16, 2013 7:50 AM

PATNA, India (AP) — The second-biggest party in India's main opposition alliance quit the group on Sunday after the dominant party appointed a Hindu ideologue to lead its campaign for parliamentary elections next year.

Janata Dal (United), a powerful socialist party in eastern Bihar state, left the National Democratic Alliance, saying it fears that with Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in charge, the alliance could alienate voters because of his anti-Muslim image.

"We have decided to part ways," Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav said.

Janata Dal had unsuccessfully demanded that the BJP declare that Modi, the chief minister of western Gujarat state, is not its choice for prime minister if the alliance wins in 2014.

Janata Dal, which holds 20 of the 545 seats in Parliament's powerful lower house, is dependent on the support of Muslims, who constitute 16.5 percent of the 111 million people in Bihar state.

Modi is accused of doing little to stop anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state in 2002 which left more than 1,000 dead. He has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the violence, but has never expressed remorse or offered an apology. He was never charged with a crime.

The split is expected to hurt the opposition alliance's chances of winning control of the federal government from the scandal-plagued Congress party in 2014.

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The Congress party is expected to welcome Janata Dal into its governing United Progressive Alliance.

Janata Dal and the BJP have been running a coalition government in Bihar state, India's second-largest state, since 2005. The National Democratic Alliance governed the country from 1998 to 2004, when it was unseated by the Congress party-led alliance.

Two other regional groups, Akali Dal and Shiv Sena, are key members of the 17-year-old opposition alliance.